First course at university: Assessing the impact of student age, nationality and learning style

Elisa Bone, Robert Reid


Designing curricula and teaching styles for students entering university is complicated by the diversity of student backgrounds and prior learning styles. We examined a range of factors that might influence success in the first course at university to try to identify those that were most important. Data were obtained for a first year Biology course at a large Australian university. Factors having a significant impact on final marks included student age, whether the students were local or international, time since high school and the learning strategy adopted. Taking a gap year or a longer break after high school was found to be detrimental to performance. Students taking Biology in their first semester performed better than those who did the course in their second or a later semester. International students attained higher grades than local students. Shallow or reproducing learning styles appeared to be as effective to grade achievement as strategies that led to a measurably deeper understanding of the subject matter.


transition, student background, learning styles

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